Two of the works created during the Prairie Plein Air competition. Both works were created at The Volkening Heritage Farm. The work, Blossoms at Volkening, is the work which I submitted for judging. The works by all 52 artists are currently on display at the Prairie Center of the Arts, through June 28, 2013. The Prairie Center is located at 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg, Illinois (www.prairiecenter.org/).
I finished a larger painting and it was still mid-afternoon. Decided to work a small painting before the day was done. Rummaged through some photos and came across this idea. Toned the canvas with some acrylic paint. After the acrylic paint dried, I switched to oils and applied a quick block in with mid-tone colors. Finished it by using a palette knife to smear some color in strategic spots.
As mentioned in my previous blog, this August, Rock Valley College will be offering a Plein Air art workshop. In this blog I will offer thoughts concerning general equipment to aid your artistic efforts. I also offer some ideas concerning basic supplies for watercolor painting en plein air as well as supplies for oil painting en plein air.
Painting en plein air is enough of a challenge. Do yourself a favor. Do not expect to create a masterpiece. You are out to enjoy the nice weather, gather ideas, do research to aid your studio works, enjoy the company of others, or just paint. If you ease up on your expectations, the results will be far more beneficial than you could imagine (and occasionally, you will create a masterpiece).
Lighten your load. Some painting locations are near our cars which makes it easier. In some cases, you may have to hike to your spot. I am often in one spot for 1 – 2 hours. Comfort and ease will be necessary to keep the experience more enjoyable. I would like to offer a few thoughts.
General Supplies -
· Dress for the weather, but prepare for change. I dress for 10 degrees cooler than what the weather people tell us. Once at your location, you will be standing (or sitting) for awhile (i.e. not moving). Most artists will find locations in shade and if the wind is blowing at all, it will feel cooler and you need to be comfortable when you paint.
o Wear neutral colors. Avoid white, bright colors and/or black.
o Suggest long sleeves and slacks/pants. Deters bugs and sun burn.
o Have an extra layer available in case the wind kicks up, the clouds roll in or rain threatens. Have a long sleeved collared shirt, light jacket, or sweatshirt available.
o Comfortable shoes
· Insect repellent
· Sun block
· Snacks – suggest fruit, granola bars or trail mix. Not a full meal, just enough to help reenergize you.
· Brimmed hat – protection from the sun. I avoid sunglasses so I can see the colors and values more accurately.
· Water/water bottle – Especially when it is warm or hot.
· Plastic bag for any trash which you generate or find.
· Paper towels.
· Before parking your car, scout out location of washrooms and drinking water.
· Camera – suggested but not necessary. Captures details, fleeting moments and can even help you compose your design.
· Cell phone – Safety.
· Umbrella – optional.
· Portable folding stool
· Viewfinder – Optional but very helpful.
· Small pliers and screwdriver.
· Small bungee cords and clamps – Optional, but in windy conditions, helpful.
· Sketchbook – to lock in the design and capture the shadow patterns. Also, there are some days (moods), locations, weather conditions or time factors which may prohibit painting. You can always sketch and learn.
· Business cards or contact information – some passerby might just be interested in that masterpiece that you are creating.
o Tote Bag – I use a back pack for plein air painting
o Palette – I suggest a small folding palette (I load up with paint before heading to the site).
o Paints – In addition to my usual palette, I keep a tube of Gouache White or Chinese White with my kit. I also keep a container with extra tubes of paint in my car, just in case. The usual colors on my palette include: Hookers Green, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Winsor Lemon, Aureolin (or New Gamboge) Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Winsor Red, Alizaron Crimson, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue and Paynes Gray.
o Brushes – Do not bring your favorite brush (it will be the brush most likely to get lost). Your choice but, depending on the size paper I am using, I usually just use a #10 or 12 round and a #6 pointed round.
o Paper – Arches 140# CP (300# is a good alternative). I suggest you either bring small pieces of paper and use a clip board or use watercolor paper in a block or sketchbook.
o Water for brushes – I use a plastic container that formerly contained lemonade mix (it’s just the right size and seals up tight). I also keep a container of water in the car, just in case.
o Portable Easel (ex. French Easel). – Optional. You may wish to sit and use your lap to support your paper.
o Small towel and facial tissues.
o Pencil and kneaded eraser
· Oils/Acrylics – I usually stand so I either use my Judson’s Guerilla paint box and tripod or a French Easel
o Tote Bag – I use a 5 gallon bucket with a cloth tool bag.
o Palette – The Judson’s Guerilla Box has its own palette or I use a wooden palette in a Masterson’s Artist Palette Seal
o Paints – The cloth tool bag holds all my necessary paints. My usual palette of colors includes: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Grumbacher Red, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Ivory Black. I also have Cadmium Lemon/Cadmium Light, Permanent Rose, Raw Sienna, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Thalo Green, Transparent Oxide Red, and Naples Yellow – just in case.
o Brushes – I use hog bristle flats #2 through #10 at least two of each. I prefer Robert Simmons Signet brand. I use a couple paper towel tubes to help keep them neatly inside my bucket
o Support – I usually use canvas panels which I can carry in my paint box/easel. I also use a Handy Porter or canvas carrier for larger panels.
o Small jar (ex. baby food jar) to carry odorless mineral spirits.
o Disposable gloves
o Disposable Diaper, paper towels and plastic bags.
o View Finder
Photos of Tom Linden painting courtesy of Bob Logsdon Photography
Workshop August 7, 8 & 9, 2013 8:00am – noon
Plain Fun with Plein Air
Sponsored by Rock Valley College. Class # ART 815 NC
Join us for three days of fun-in-the-sun as we explore ideas, concepts and strategies for enjoying plein air painting. The workshop will focus on helping you to understand how to locate and focus on a subject, how to quickly establish your design, and how to evaluate, amend and finish your works on location. Each day, an objective will be explained, and demonstrated. Students will have time to work on their designs. Students will receive one-on-one assistance and group instruction. Work in your medium of choice – watercolor, oils, pastels, etc. The focus will be on learning new ideas and concepts as well as learning how to be safe, meet new friends, have fun and perhaps, create a masterpiece. It is suggested that you plan to work on small supports (paper, canvas, panel, etc., nothing larger than 11 x 15). Please contact the instructor (email@example.com) prior to the workshop for information concerning recommended supplies in addition to your painting equipment.
This workshop will be held in the outdoor gardens at the Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford (1354 N. 2nd Street). Please contact me if you need directions to this workshop and/or suggestions for area hotels.
To find out more about the workshop or to register, please contact Rock Valley Community College (815) 921-3900.
Photographs courtesy of Bob Logsdon Photography
Spring break for my wife and I take her somewhere warm, like….Door County Wisconsin.
As my spring break at Rock Valley College and my wife’s spring break with the Rockford school district never coincide, I promised that I would make some schedule alterations so that we could go somewhere warm for her spring break. When we realized that her 2013 spring break would be mid-April, we thought it silly that we would need to travel anywhere else to enjoy warm weather. This year was different as winter drags on.
Through a series of events, we found out that she would be hosting a party for thirty people at the end of her spring break. Added to that, I needed to deliver new works to Woodwalk Gallery in Egg Harbor Wisconsin between the 19th and 25th. Rather than travel somewhere warm, we decided to make a trip into Door County to deliver the works and get back to Rockford so Helen could finish all preparations for her party.
I had hoped to deliver the works on the 15th, Monday, but the owners of Woodwalk indicated that they would be on the east coast and not returning until the 18th. They agreed to meet with me the morning of the 19th to retrieve the eight works remaining from 2012 and exchange them with ten new works for the 2013 season.
I decided to bring fifteen works on the trip. I thought that perhaps it would be wise to allow Woodwalk to select works which they felt would best suit their clients. So we left Rockford on Wednesday in pouring rain and made a couple stops in the Chicago area before heading through downpours as we headed north into Wisconsin. As we traveled north of Milwaukee and out of the rains, we were reminded that winter was still hanging on – snow drifts remained along the roads.
Door County is a summer vacation mecca not a spring break destination. Several of the shops and many of the restaurants were still a week or two from being open for the season. While staying flexible on our demands for meals we were able to dine at restaurants which usually have long waiting lines. Then again, Helen took part in an event at one establishment and we left a dollar bill and a quarter suspended from the restaurant ceiling.
Fast forward to Friday morning. We were to meet with Margaret at Woodwalk Gallery at 10am. A snowstorm is heading this way. Heavy snow showers predicted. At about 9:00am, I mentioned to Helen that while Margaret indicated that she would be on the east coast, she did not say where they would be. My concern was based upon the insane act which hurt numerous people and upset the tradition of The Boston Marathon.
Turns out the the owners of Woodwalk were in Boston but managed to get out just before the lock down. Bad weather caused their flight to get re-routed. Due to a very late return to Egg Harbor, they were not able to retrieve four of my works which were on display at a local winery. Add to that, there was a power failure and the Egg Harbor area was now without power.
Due to all the complications, Margaret asked that I leave all 15 works delivered plus the four works at the winery. Since I will be a featured artist at Woodwalk this July, I guess that’s okay.
I forwarded the reference photo posted above. Not a great photo, but a fair reference. Most students tend to reproduce the photograph…exactly as the photo. That means they do the design exactly as seen in the photo. That means they do the colors exactly as seen in the photo. That means that they do everything exactly as the photo. Yawn!
Rather than allow them to follow their normal routine, I allowed them to see how a reference photo can be cropped to create a more stimulating design. In addition to the photo, I forwarded a design sketch. They were free to work their own design, but this should help them move towards a more dynamic presentation.
Allowing them to choose their own direction with paint application, I presented two possible options. The first choice keeps the color selection closer to the real flowers, though the application is created to keep the colors loose, free and fun. The first or outline stage still allows watercolor to be watercolor. The second option plays upon the splash lessons where we work to apply bright colors near our focal point regardless of their presence in the actual objects. We try to apply colors of appropriate values to the subject not necessarily the same colors as the reference. In other words, we play and entertain the viewer with a fresh and sometimes unexpected presentation.
As with most of my demonstrations for the students, I apply the first, or outline stage to my paper and only indicate where the refining and defining applications may lead me. I do not wish to complete the painting. I aim to let them express themselves in their work. I do not desire to have them create clone paintings.
A couple students selected one method for their painting. One student was ambitious and created one watercolor of each method and then, before class ended, did the unexpected. The student took a piece of watercolor paper and without the aid of a drawing, applied colors in a splash method. Her goal is to apply a drawing after the paper dries. In part she will impose the design but in part, will allow the first, lively application to guide her watercolor. I can not wait to see how this student completes the challenge.
A couple years ago during the Fields Project, I made a small watercolor sketch of this front porch (less the flowers). I loved the patterns of the shadows and the dappled sunlight on the grass. I was not happy with the finished watercolor. As sometimes happens with watercolors on location, I was unable to capture the values and colors that I saw. Perhaps it was the media. Perhaps it was the paper. No matter, it just didn’t do it for me.
Recently I came across the watercolor painting and decided to play with the design in oils. I did a couple pen sketches as a warm up and to reacquaint myself with the scene. The sketches woke me to the idea of including the pots of flowers to add color, items of interest and a stop to the center of interest. Not sure that this will work in a larger format but it works well in this size. It was on display at the ArtScene held last week. Several people expressed interest in the work, but as of today, it is still available.
Speaking of ArtScene, I had a number of interesting conversations. One in particular was memorable. As I have noted in previous posts, I do not allow people to take photographs of my works. I have small signs posted at my display asking people not to take photos. Late Saturday afternoon one gentleman broached the subject. In a rather testy demeanor he asked why he was not allowed to take photographs of my works. I took a moment to look at him and determine whether he was just kidding. I could tell by the look in his face that he was serious. I looked at him and inquired as to why he felt it necessary to take a photograph. Perhaps he had a good reason.
The fellow responded that perhaps he was just too cheap but he didn’t see the problem. I followed up by stating that in taking the photo, He gets some use out of the image. I however receive nothing to help me purchase more paint, or more canvases, or more brushes, or frames, or sketchbooks. It would not help me to afford the entry fee which I pay to be at ArtScene. It would not help to pay for the gas, or maintenance, or insurance for my car which enables me to find and paint these scenes or get all of these works out so the public can see them. It does not pay for the entry fees, or shipping charges to get these works into competitions where I can help to improve the value of my talents. It does not help me pay for my website. In summary, to take the photograph would allow him to have something of perceived value, while I would be left without the ability to continue to bring my vision, my art to the market.
Although I did not make the sale (which I knew would not occur anyway) at least he did not steal from me.